24 August 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge August 2008

I skipped last month, because Lundulph and I are still struggling with the previous cakes I've made, but when this month's challenge was announced, there was no way I could resist. Éclairs are among my favourite type of pastry.


In Bulgaria they are made with vanilla custard inside and toffee glazing. This time the challenge was for chocolate éclairs from Pierre Hermé. A certain amount of freedom was given in that at least one of the glaze or cream should be made with chocolate. But the whole recipe seemed good and I opted to do both with chocolate.

The instructions were quite involved and I ended up doing things over several days. The pastry cream is basically a custard and I made that first.

Chocolate Pastry Cream


4.75 dl full milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp corn flour
200 g dark chocolate, melted
2.5 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature


  1. Bring the milk to the boil in a large-ish saucepan.
  2. In the mean time, whisk together yolks, sugar and cornstarch.
  3. Once the milk has boiled, add 6 tablespoons of it to the yolk mixture, one at a time, to temper it. Then pour the rest of the milk slowly, while whisking vigorously. The tempering prevents the yolks from coagulating.
  4. Strain the mixture back to the saucepan, to remove any bits of yolk that might have scrambled.
  5. Place the saucepan over medium heat and whisk vigorously until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking for another couple of minutes, it'll go thick very quickly.
  6. Remove from the heat and add the melted chocolate, stirring it in well.
  7. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking, but continue stirring, so the mixture remains smooth. Once the cream has cooled to about 60 degrees C, remove from the ice water and stir in the butter.
  8. Leave to cool completely, stirring occasionally. Store in the fridge until needed.
The chocolate glaze is made in two steps - first a chocolate sauce is made, which makes an ingredient for the glaze.

Chocolate sauce


130 g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
2.4 dl water
1.2 dl double cream
0.8 dl sugar


  1. Place all ingredients in a thick bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil on medium-high.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes until the sauce thickens, while constantly stirring.
  3. The sauce is ready when it forms layers on the back of the spoon, when it's dipped repeatedly.
  4. Leave to cool completely, then refrigerate until needed.

This results in a bit more than needed for the glaze and can be used as hot chocolate sauce on various desserts.

Chocolate glaze


0.8 dl double cream
100 g dark chocolate, finely chopped
4 tsp unsalted butter at room temperature
7 tbsp chocolate sauce at room temperature

  1. Bring the double cream to the boil in a thick bottomed saucepan.
  2. Turn down the heat to lowest possible and start adding the chocolate a little at a time, stirring it in well.
  3. Finally stir in the butter and the chocolate sauce.
  4. The glaze should be heated up over a water bath before using.
Here is where I made my mistake, mis-reading tsp for tbsp and I added 4 tbsp of butter to the glaze. Of course the fat separated from the chocolate and although I tried to soak it up with kitchen towels, it was far too much and I couldn't use it. Luckily there was plenty of the chocolate sauce left and I used that as glazing instead. It didn't set, but was sufficiently hard in room temperature to work.

Here you can see from left to right, the glaze before I realised I'd forgotten to add the butter, glaze with far too much butter and using the chocolate sauce.

Choux dough


1.2 dl full milk
1.2 dl water
115 g unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces
0.25 tsp sugar
0.25 tsp salt
2.4 dl plain flour
5 large eggs at room temperature

  1. Bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil in a large thick bottomed saucepan.
  2. In the mean time, sift the flour onto a piece of baking paper.
  3. When the liquid is boiling, add all the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and whisk vigorously. The dough will come together very quickly and a thin film will form at the bottom of the saucepan, that is OK.
  4. Keep whisking for 2-3 more minutes to dry the dough. I used my electrical whisk and had to change to a wooden spoon at the end to get the dough to come together.
  5. Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and start adding the eggs, one at a time, and make sure each is incorporated well before adding the next one. The dough may separate for the first two eggs, but will come back together at the third egg.
  6. While the dough is still warm, pipe it onto baking paper and pre-heat the oven at gas mark 5 (190 degrees C)
  7. Bake for about 25 - 30 minutes until puffed up and golden brown. Rotate the baking sheet back to front after about half the time.
It was amazing to watch how these yellow sausages puffed up and began to resemble éclairs.


Constructing the éclairs
  1. Allow the éclairs to cool, then cut lengthwise in half with a serrated knife.
  2. Spread the glaze on the top halves and leave aside to set
  3. IMG_3883
    I sprinkled some of the pink sparkly things I had left over since the April challenge.

  4. Pipe the chocolate cream into the bottom halves, then carefully place the top halves over
  5. IMG_3882
    Gratuitous photos of chocolatey things.
It's recommended that these are served immediately, which is not always possible to do. They should be stored in a cool dry place. Fridge works, but a lot of condensation forms and soaks into the choux buns and they become a bit chewy.

The above recipe gave 24 éclairs and 3 profiteroles (which I used as tasters, before taking some of the éclairs to the barbecue we were invited to in the week-end).

I made the profiteroles before I made the glaze and used Nutella instead, which worked very nicely too.

Proper éclairs shouldn't really be cut in halves, but two small holes should be made at either end and the cream should be piped into the cavity. Then the upper side should be dipped into the glaze and excess stricken off with a finger. Perhaps my éclairs were too long for this, but there wasn't one big cavity inside. However, the little profiteroles worked perfectly and had one big empty space inside.

Most recipes on choux pasty only have water, whereas this one is enriched with full milk, I'm guessing this makes the dough a bit softer.

Overall towards the end I had a bad feeling that there's not enough sugar and way too much dark chocolate and I was worried that it wouldn't taste very nice. But I was wrong, all the dark chocolate tasted wonderfully velvety and creamy and the textures were so nice, it didn't need any more sweetness.

I'm definitely going to try making choux again, and will experiment with different creams and glazes.

First anniversary

Just over a year ago, Lundulph and I got married and our dear friends Fred and Ginger gave us three bottles of wine, each with a label:


Lifting the label of the first bottle:


And so we did and it was absolutely wonderful wine. After the first sip, I thought it was asking for a nice mature brie and I happened to have a nice looking one in the fridge, so I went to get it. Unfortunately looks were deceiving, the brie did not taste of anything, so I continued on the wine alone.

There's more information about this wine here. There are two more bottles to go, but not yet.

22 August 2008

Korv Stroganoff

This is something that they used to serve at school. At first everyone just wrinkled their nose at it. But a bite made me change my mind (and everyone else too) - it was absolutely delish.

Sadly I don't remember what was in it, apart from the Swedish Falukorv, and that it was served with rice.

So, after some amount of googling, it seems that Korv Stroganoff is a Swedish variety of Beef Stroganoff, "korv" meaning sausage. I think Frankfurters would do as well and I even spotted a recipe with chorizo. But having the regular benefit of working in close vicinity of an IKEA store, I have access to the lovely Falukorv.

Another advantage of this dish is that it's very quick too, definitely for a working day.


5 tbsp grape seed oil
2 onions
2 garlic cloves
400 g Falukorv
1 can of button mushrooms (230 g)
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp flour
1 dl water or stock or milk
1 can of plum tomatoes (400 g)
2 red peppers
100 g green beans
1 dl yoghurt
2 tbsp dill
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
chopped parsley
basmati rice

  1. Boil the rice according to instructions on the packet.
  2. Peel the onion and garlic and dice finely. Slice the sausage into circles, then cut the circles into strips. Drain and quarter the mushrooms
  3. Heat up the oil in a deep saucepan and fry the onion and garlic until soft.
  4. Add the mushrooms and sausage and fry for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until they get some colour.
  5. In the mean time, liquidise the tomatoes, wash and cut the peppers into strips, wash and cut the beans in half.
  6. Stir in the flour and let it soak up the liquid in the pan. Add the tomato puree and your choice of liquid - water, stock or milk and leave to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring every now and then.
  7. Add the peppers and the beans, stir in, cover and leave to simmer for a further 5 minutes.
  8. Take off the hob and stir in yoghurt, dill, sugar, salt and pepper.
  9. Sprinkle chopped parsley when serving.

This makes 4 portions and was rather tasty.


Update 16.01.2009:
Today I didn't have any peppers or beans, nor did I have yoghurt, but I had a 300 ml tub of double cream that I'd frozen as I hadn't used it. It looked pretty solid as it does when it's been frozen, but it melted nicely and resulted in a very creamy (and probably highly unhealty) version.

17 August 2008

Vegetable stew


Both Lundulph and I are working such long hours lately, quick dishes are what we aim for, often on week-ends as well, particularly when we get a chance for some decent gardening, like yesterday. This is something my Mum has been recommending for ages as well.

What I did was buy some greens more or less at random in the hope to find a suitable recipe in my Bulgarian National Cookery book. The closest thing was "пролетна яхния" which can be translated to "Spring stew". Only a couple of the ingredients were amongst the ones I'd bought.

The stew ended up ridiculously sweet, thanks to the 2 giant carrots I put in and I suspect the red peppers contributed as well. So I've changed the below list of ingredients in the hope that it won't end up too sweet. So fewer carrots and green instead of red peppers.

On the plus side, we got to try out our potatoes - it seems in my previous attempt at growing potatoes, I missed out quite a lot of them and so this year they sprouted happily and are now ready for harvesting.


6 shallots
3 cloves garlic
2 medium carrots
5 tbsp grape seed oil
3 tbsp tomato puree
4 tbsp paprika
1 kg baby potatoes
5 dl hot water
250 g baby sweetcorn
200 g green beans
2 green peppers
200 g okra
3 tbsp fresh chopped basil
3 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
salt and pepper

  1. Peel and trim shallots, garlic and carrots. Wash and scrub the potatoes.
  2. Dice the shallots and garlic. Cut the carrots and potatoes in bite sized chunks. Boil the water in the mean time.
  3. Heat the oil in a deep sauce pan and fry shallots, garlic and carrots for a few minutes until they go soft.
  4. Add the tomato puree and the paprika, stirring vigorously for about 1 minute, then add the water and stir, in case anything is stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add the potatoes, cover and reduce the heat to low. Leave to simmer for 10-15 minutes
  6. Wash and trim the baby sweetcorn, beans, peppers and okra. Cut them in bite sized chunks.
  7. After the time is up, add baby sweetcorn, beans and peppers, stir in well and cover and leave to simmer for another 5 minutes.
  8. Add the okra, stir in, cover and simmer for 5 further minutes.
  9. Remove from the hob and add basil, parsley, salt and pepper.

This is fine as it is on it's own, but Lundulph generally likes some meat, so I grilled some Toulouse sausages. He said it worked quite well. And it was even better the second round when we added a bit more salt. The potatoes went quite mushy and helped thicken the stew.

As usual, Lundulph suggested adding some chili. In fact, he suggests that "seasoning" should mean salt, pepper and chili, not just salt and pepper.

9 August 2008


Lundulph judges restaurants based on how good a steak they do. Last week we went to the butcher's and fell for the juicy looking steaks in the window. There were three kinds - fillet, rump and rib eye. We went for the rib eye, because Lundulph reckoned that's the tastiest one.

I'd been planning to do Hasselback potatoes so this was a good opportunity for this. I also made some beans plakia for "greens".

Given the build up Lundulph and I worked ourselves up to, I was pretty nerveous about getting the steaks right. We decided to just season them. I quickly read up on how to deal with steaks in The Lore and Science of the Kitchen book. The thing about steak is that it is a tender type of meat that requires very short cooking time to avoid losing the moisture. Short cooking times are achieved by pan frying or grilling and we opted for grilling. But there is a danger - the temperature in a pan or under a grill is quite high and the surface of the steak will go very hot, thus risking a dry out, before the middle bit of the steak even begins to warm up.

The book said it's notoriously difficult to tell when a steak has been cooked to perfection, but made the recommendation to bring the steak to room temperature before cooking begins, that way the temperature difference between steak surface and steak middle will be lower, this will give more control in the cooking.

So I preheated the grill very hot, seasoned the steaks and put them on. Kept an eye and as soon as the colour changed a little, I took them out, turned them and seasoned on the other side. Then back in again until the surface changed colour.

Now the surface was sealed, I lowered the heat to low and kept turning the steaks every minute. I did 2 minutes in total on each side like this and served immediately with the potatoes and beans on a bed of spinach.


All I can say is YUMMY! The steaks were perfect and pink in the middle and ever so juicy.